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Capitol Access is an online column by Jacob Kauffman. His column aims to give people unique insights into the Arkansas legislative session.

No Big Affair: Gay Marriage and the Senate


Last week, the House was witness to a multitude of displays of emotion and conviction regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. Today, the Senate picked up SR 29, which mirrors the House resolution’s language. The atmosphere in the Senate was noticeably different. The floor debate in the Senate, unlike the House, did not serve as a stage for grandstanding on the issue.

Senator Jason Rapert (R) of Conway sponsored the resolution defining marriage as the, “union between one man and one woman.” Throughout this year’s session Rapert has garnered a reputation as an outspoken leader for conservative Arkansans. His fiery rhetoric on religion and abortion has thrust him into national headlines.

But today, when given the chance to be the face of traditional marriage, Rapert chose a different route. Instead of a strong, heartfelt assertion of core principles and beliefs, he calmly read through the text of the resolution with a deliberate and neutral tone. The bill text avoided religion and instead affirmed the validity of “traditional marriage” by pointing to Arkansans' support of Amendment 83 in 2004, and the signing of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Last week the Democrats in the House took the opportunity to forcefully articulate their values, and opposition to the restriction of marriage. But in the Senate, the Democrats were not afforded the same opportunity. At the close of Senator Rapert’s verbatim recitation of the bill Lt. Governor Mark Darr (R) closed debate and held a voice vote on the resolution. Senator Elliott’s exclamation, “No!” stood out both for its forcefulness and its near isolation.

The resolution passed with overwhelming support. Parliamentary procedure allows for opposition speech and at a minimum a vote to close debate. It’s unclear why opponents of the resolution did not request the opportunity to voice their concerns.